Daniel 7: The Four Beasts and the Horns

The first vision of Daniel, along with its interpretation can be found in Daniel 7. The description of the vision is presented in verses 1 through 14. In verses 15 and 16, he states:

Daniel 7:15-16:

7:15 I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me.

7:16 I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things.

So in Daniel 7:17-28 we can read the interpretation of the vision itself. The only thing left to us is to relate that interpretation to present or future events that have occurred.

The sequences of visions that Daniel is given are similar in nature to the vision of Nebuchadnezzar and the statue. However, Daniel's visions include some additional descriptive information that is relevant to the study of our times and the book of Revelation. we are going to study those portions in a bit more depth, while summarizing the portions that are parallel to Nebuchadnezzar's vision and have already been fulfilled in history.

The winds, the sea, and the beasts

Daniel 7:2:

7:2 Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.

From Dake's notes:

Winds in symbolic passages denote wars, strife, and judgments from God. Jer. 25:32-33; Rev. 7:1-3. Seas in symbolic passages represent peoples. Rev. 13:1, 17:1, 15. Beasts in symbolic passages represent kingdoms and their rulers,

as occur in this chapter and in many places in Revelation.

Daniel 7:17:

These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.

The first beast

Daniel 7:4:

7:4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man and a man's heart was given to it.

The first beast was like a lion. This beast refers to the kingdom of Babylon which was in control of Israel at that point in history. Dake notes many passages in Isaiah and Jeremiah, where:

the king of Babylon is compared to a lion (Isa. 5:29; Jer. 4:7, 50:17, 44-46). The eagle's wings identify Babylon for the kingdom is compared to an eagle (Jer. 48:40; Ezek. 17; Hab. 1:6-8). The wings denote the swiftness of the conquests of Nebuchadnezzar. In just a few years he made a vast empire. The wings being plucked and the lion standing upon its feet as a man with a man's heart being given to it symbolize the conquests of Nebuchadnezzar coming to an abrupt end by his insanity and his becoming sane again - as a man (Daniel 4:33, 36)

The second beast

Daniel 7:5:

7:5 And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.

From Dake's notes...

This is a fitting symbol of Medo-Persia because of their cruelty, thirst after blood, their robberies, and love of spoil (Isa. 13:16-18; Jer. 51:48-56). The largest species of bear are found in the mountains of Media.

He goes on to note that the bear raising itself up on one side

symbolizes the strength of the Persians compared to the Medes.

The bear's appetite for flesh is prophetic for its conquering a larger area than Babylon had, namely Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt.

The third beast

Daniel 7:6:

7:6 After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.

From Dake's notes...

A leopard is a fit symbol of the Grecian Empire founded by Alexander the Great. The leopard is known for its swiftness. This, together with the 4 wings of a fowl, symbolizes the swiftness of Alexander's conquests. Previously, the 2 wings of the lion symbolized swiftness, but here the 4 wings symbolize the double swiftness of Alexander over Nebuchadnezzar's conquests. None of the conquests of the other beasts equaled that of Alexander. The 4 heads symbolize the 4 divisions of the Grecian Empire after the death of Alexander, as do the 4 horns of Daniel 8:8, 22-23. (see notes). Heads always symbolize kingdoms.

From Wikipedia, the 4 divisions of the Grecian Empire after Alexander's death were as follows: "Cassander ruled in Macedon, Lysimachus in Thrace, Seleucus in Mesopotamia and Persia, and Ptolemy I Soter in the Levant and Egypt. Antigonus ruled for a while in Anatolia and Syria but was eventually defeated by the other generals at Ipsus (301 BC). Control over Indian territory passed to Chandragupta Maurya, the first Maurya emperor, who further expanded his dominions after a settlement with Seleucus." So there is historical justification for this interpretation.

The fourth beast

Daniel 7:7:

7:7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.

And the interpretation from verse 23

Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon the earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.

Again from Dake's notes...

The 4th beast is a symbol of the old Roman Empire, the 4th of 4 kingdoms in succession. It is mentioned by name only in the N.T. ... This is a nondescript beast for there is nothing on earth to compare it with. It is a dreadful, terrible, strong beast with great iron teeth symbolizing the same as the iron on the image of 2:40-43. In fulfillment it devoured the other beasts and stamped upon them with its feet, meaning it conquered all the territories of the first beasts - Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. It was different from all beasts before it, not only in a republican form of government, but also in power, greatness, extent of dominion, and length of duration. The 10 horns symbolize 10 kingdoms in the latter days, the last form of the old Roman Empire (v 7-8, 23-24; Rev. 13, 17:8-17). Horns always symbolize kings.

A digression

Just so you know how difficult it can be to match prophecy to history, I'm going to present a completely different interpretation of these beasts. This is presented by James Lloyd on his website. I'm not including a link, because the site is badly laid out for my browser with many overlapping images, et cetera. I could make an equal case for this interpretation to the classical interpretation. His basic premise is that the vision of the statue of Nebuchadnezzar portrayed the kingdoms that would exist until the nation of Israel was destroyed after Christ's crucifixion. The beasts of the 7th chapter of Daniel are kingdoms that would arise after Israel was destroyed before it was restored to its position as a nation. His equivalencies to history are striking as well.

The first beast

In his view, the first beast, like a lion with eagles wings represented the British Empire. Through their history, the lion has featured prominently on the crests and flags of their royal houses. The lion has also been depicted standing up. The symbol of America is of course the eagle. The first beast had eagle's wings until we won our independence and the wings were plucked from the first beast. He mentions Richard the lionhearted as a famous ruler of the Empire said to have the heart of a lion.

The second beast

The second beast was like unto a bear. In his view, the Soviet Union is represented by this beast. Just as governments are thought of as left (being communistic), right (being totalitarian) or centrist (being democratic), the Soviet Union was the first communistic government. (It raised up itself on one side). He interprets the three ribs as either the three Baltic states or the three Trans-Caucasian states (Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan) assimilated by the earlier Russian empire. It was one of the most brutal of empires, killing by some estimates 50 million of its own people in various pogroms and persecutions. It certainly devoured a lot of flesh.

The third beast

In his correlation of beasts to prophecy, the third beast was the Nazi empire. The leopard (or panther) has significance to the German people in his view. He notes that various naval ships were named the Panther, their tanks have been named after big cats (Panthers and Tigers). He would take each pair of wings to be the primary countries that aided in its war efforts- Japan and Italy. Certainly, the Nazi blitzkrieg attacks were unheard of in their swiftness and destructive punch. There are two possible interpretations for the four heads. In his first view, there were historically four primary Germanic tribes - the Angles, Saxons, Alemans, and Franks, and there were four primary German states - Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, and Wurttemberg. The four heads of the beast could also refer, in his view, to the fourfold jurisdiction over Germany after WWII. It was split with four generals from the United States, Britain, France, and Russia governing the territories.

The fourth beast

From his view, the fourth beast had to emerge and become a world power before the state of Israel was established in 1948. The only power structure that was established in that time period would be the United Nations, June 26, 1945. It is indeed diverse from all previous kingdoms and does in fact cover the entire earth in scope, as the majority of the nations are represented there. It certainly tries to impose its will over the Earth, but uses individual nations armies operating under its banner to do the dirty work of putting down insurrections.

It is diverse in that its nominal leader changes from year to year, but certain councils in it have much more power than others, the primary of which is the Security Council. The Security Council has 5 permanent members and 10 rotating members serving 2 year terms. There are moves afoot to increase the number of permanent member states to 10 (or 11), adding Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan, to the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China. The 10th seat would be occupied by an African country (Egypt, Nigeria, and South Africa are likely candidates). The 11th would come from the Arab league, presumably at a later date. This would give an interesting interpretation to the 10 horns and 11th coming later.

A couple of personal comments. Many will put forth the view that the fourth beast in this modern view of the beasts is, in fact, the United States of America. Certainly, we began to be seen as a true world power after WWI, and this was intensified after WWII when the third beast was put down. This could be a valid view of the fourth beast. Certainly, the United States has been involved in worldwide conflict, from the World Wars that were just mentioned, to Korea, Vietnam, the Grenada invasion, the Panama invasion, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and now Iraq, along with other minor skirmishes. It is a bit harder for me to make this work based on the 10 horns being spoke of as coming from the kingdom. In the majority of these armed conflicts, we didn't create any other governments. The Iraq war is the closest we have come to that, and the people are really establishing their own government there anyway. So I find this interpretation of the vision to be hard to accept from the 10 kings concept.

However, it should be noted that "ten standard Federal Regions were established by OMB (Office of Management and Budget) Circular A-105, "Standard Federal Regions," in April, 1974, and required for all executive agencies." according to Wikipedia. So you could certainly make something of the 10 number looking at that. In an emergency, some indicate that there would be one governor in each region who would be put in charge for their region, which might easily be interpreted as the 10 kings. It would be interesting to correlate a split 3 1/2 year lesser and 3 1/2 year greater tribulation period as a break between terms of office where a second term of some president who might be the little horn would enter a new phase.

The fourth beast could be in the future and the interpretation of the first three beasts could still be correct.

Analysis

Either of these two views could be correct, or they could both be correct and still have the Bible remain self-consistent. The only difference would be the scope of where the 10 horns would come from.

If the classical interpretation is correct, then the 10 horns would be kingdoms that were geographically located in the part of the world that is generally associated with one of the previous beast empires - the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian, or old Roman Empire. They had a lot of overlap in the territory they conquered, but some empires didn't completely consume the previous one. The Roman empire, for example, went more north and west than the Persian empire.

If the more recent interpretation of Lloyd is correct, then since the United Nations is global in scope, the 10 kingdoms could in theory be formed from any place in the world (assuming they don't refer to the Security Council). I tend to favor the classical interpretation, simply because the later visions of Daniel explicitly concern the same history as the statue dream of Nebuchadnezzar. However there are many Biblical passages of prophecy that have an immediate interpretation and also foreshadow distant events, so this could be one of those.

It should be noted that the word king has a specific connotation today. I would propose that in Biblical terms, any royal family that passes down the rule over a group of people through means of hereditary relationships or otherwise rules as a monarchy is seen to rule would qualify as king in today's culture. Certainly, there are many current Kings and Queens in the world, whether going by that title or by Emir, Sultan, Emperor, or something else. Far more than this humble American realized, as a matter of fact. Wikipedia lists 45 current countries with ruling monarchies (or 46 if you include the Pope) and 12 other sub-country areas that are ruled by monarchs. They do say the list doesn't reflect some recent changes, so it is at best a snapshot.

The major countries are collected under around 30 actual rulers, since Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom covers a lot of ground. Of that list, there are easily 9 or 10 names that even a person from Casper, WY recognizes, whether that is for something they did, their ancestors did, or progeny have done. All the 10 horns mean is that there are 10 current (or yet to be formed) kingdoms that will play a part in the fulfillment of prophecy. There can be other kings in power today or at the selected time in history that the prophecies are fulfilled that play no active role without the Bible being in error. Extending the reach of the fourth beast (as the U.N.) doesn't do much to increase the number of well recognized kingdoms that could represent the ten horns because most kingdoms are still concentrated in Europe and the Middle East. You add a few African kingdoms over small areas, the emperor of Japan and some far eastern (Malaysian) kingdoms, but that's about it.

To focus on the classical view, and assuming that since each of the beasts had a larger territory than the previous beast, it is also possible that kingdoms near the edge of the old Roman or Persian Empire might qualify for this final governing block that deals with the Antichrist. Let's see who all could fall into the groups. First, those within the old Roman Empire or under the control of the previous Persian Empire....

  • Jacques Chirac - French Co-prince of Andorra and Joan Enric Vives Sic�lia - Episcopal Co-prince of Andorra - Roman empire
  • Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifah - King of Bahrain - Roman Empire
  • Albert II - King of Belgium - Roman empire
  • Abdullah II - King of Jordan - Roman empire
  • Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah - emir of Kuwait - Persian empire
  • Hans-Adam II - Prince of Liechtenstein - Roman empire
  • Henri - Grand Duke of Luxembourg - Roman empire
  • Albert II of Monaco - Prince of Monaco - Roman empire
  • Mohammed VI - King of Morocco - Roman empire's southwestern extent
  • Sayyed Qaboos bin Sa'id Al 'Bu Sa'id - Sultan of Oman - part of Persian empire
  • Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani - Emir of Qatar - part of Persian empire
  • Abdullah - king of Saudi Arabia - part of Persian empire
  • Juan Carlos I - king of Spain - at the western reach of the Roman empire
  • Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan - Emir of Abu Dhabi, President and Sheik of U.A.E. - Persian empire
  • Humayd ibn Rashid Al Nuaimi - Emir of Ajman - one of the U.A.E. - part of Persian empire
  • Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum - Emir of Dubai - one of the U.A.E. - part of Persian empire
  • Hamad ibn Muhammad ash-Sharqi - Emir of Fujairah - one of the U.A.E. - part of Persian empire
  • Saqr bin Mohammad al-Qassimi - Sheik of Ras al-Khaimah - one of the U.A.E. - art of Persian empire
  • Sultan III ibn Muhammad al-Qasimi - Emir of Sharjah - one of the U.A.E. - part of Persian empire
  • Rashid ibn Ahmad Al Mu'alla - Emir of Umm al-Qaiwain - one of the U.A.E. - part of Persian empire
  • Queen Elizabeth II - ruler of a great many spots, but particularly including the United Kingdom - at the northern reach of the old Roman Empire

As you can see, of the 45 kingdoms listed, 21 fall in the region of interest, and 10 of them are actually kingdoms that were in the final Roman empire. Those current kingdoms that were quite close to the edge of the old Roman Empire would include...

  • Margrethe II - Queen of Denmark - a bit north
  • Beatrix - Queen of the Netherlands - a bit north
  • Harald V - King of Norway - a bit north
  • Carl XVI Gustaf - King of Sweden - a bit farther north

As far as the world is concerned today, there are few countries that Israel can count on to be its ally. Of that first list, it would be pretty easy to pick out 10 or more that would be considered outright hostile to Israel and might be considered as a group at this point in time, although there is nothing to say that others couldn't be involved in any future problems in the region. Of course, if the whole world is considered as the stomping ground there are other kingdoms that could be added to the list. The point is, at this point in time, there are in fact 10 kingdoms either from the old Roman Empire or 10 kingdoms that might be grouped as particularly hostile to Israel by including some from the Persian empire that could qualify as the 10 horns of the vision or the 10 toes of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. If God tarries, there may be further consolidation amongst the kingdoms that are listed leaving a clear 10 that would be identifiable as fulfilling prophecy. There are a few of those listed that have very small territories, and could disappear as monarchies altogether, be taken over by nearby monarchies, or combined through marriage without causing any real trouble for the world.

If we are looking at something completely different, like the United States divisions, then they are already configured by law, but just await some natural catastrophe or other event to be implemented.

If you don't think you're ready for these prophecies to be fulfilled, then by all means, get ready.

The ten horns and the little horn

Daniel 7:8,21,24-25:

7:8 I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.

7:21 I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.

7:24 And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.

7:25 And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.

Here we have a couple of unfulfilled prophecies. Out of the selection of kingdoms that are listed here, or others that may form yet in the future if God tarries, there are 10 that will turn out to be significant and will group themselves together in some manner that will stand out. This is generally known as the "Revised Rome", although there is no Biblical precedent to indicate that the size of this Revised Rome will be anything as large as the old Roman Empire. An 11th king will arise in power in one of two time frames. He could rise to power after this group of 10 kings becomes known as a block, or he could simply have risen to power after the latest ruler in this block of ten assumed the throne. It isn't really possible to tell from the scripture here.

The Bible states that he will be diverse from the other 10 kings that are grouped together, so he may be from another completely different dynasty with completely different goals. He will subdue 3 of the 10 kings immediately. While this has generally been thought of as requiring great military power, the fact is that many of the kingdoms listed are neither big nor powerful. So any of the others could probably take another of the kingdoms out by its root, either by assassination or other means. This "little horn" is the Antichrist. His kingdom will be known as "Revised Grecia" in the further notes.

The final judgment

There isn't much that is said about the acts of the Antichrist here in this chapter. But the chapter does offer hope to the world.

Daniel 7:9-14:

7:9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.

7:10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and then thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake:

7:11 I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame.

7:12 As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time.

7:13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.

7:14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

This establishes that in the end, God is victorious (spoil the ending did I?), the Antichrist is put down, all world governments are set aside under the eternal kingdom that is given to Christ and the saints of the most High. All of these things troubled Daniel, but he pondered them in his heart.

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Dake excerpt taken from Dake's Annotated Reference Bible, © 1961, 1963 by Finis Jennings Dake, and is reproduced on our web site with permission from representatives of Dake Publishing.